Challenge Cup Preview: Saturday

Date published: January 15 2016

Six games take place in the Challenge Cup on Saturday, with London Irish facing Grenoble in Pool 5 the pick of the bunch.

Enisei-STM v Newcastle

Newcastle Falcons have announced a strong side for this weekend’s match against Enisei-STM.

Travelling to the Black Sea city of Sochi for the round five match, the team includes first club starts for number eight Callum Chick and scrum-half Jamie Booth, alongside a welcome return from illness by Adam Powell.

Currently sat second in pool one of the competition the Falcons can take a massive step towards qualification for the last eight with a win in Russia, with a mix of experience and exuberance entrusted this weekend.

In the backline, Tom Penny takes to the full-back position, with Argentine international Belisario Agulla and Zach Kibirige joining him in a back three that has proven a handful for defences over the course of the competition.

In the midfield, the returning Powell is partnered by Juan Pablo Socino to bring in a wealth of experience while at half-back, debutant Booth will have Tom Catterick alongside at fly-half, who will look to repeat his impressive performance in the reverse fixture at Kingston Park in November.

In the front row, Alex Rogers and Paddy Ryan will start at loose head and tight hear prop respectively with George McGuigan packing down at hooker.

After making a cameo from the bench at home to Enisei and impressing in outings for the A Team and Blaydon RFC, Will Witty starts in the second row alongside Calum Green while either side of debutant Chick at number eight, Richard Mayhew starts on the blindside flank and assumes the captaincy, with Dan Temm taking to the openside.

The teams:

Enisei-STM: 15 Ramil Gaisin, 14 Jurijs Baranovs, 13 David Kacharava, 12 Mikhail Babaev, 11 Denis Simplikevich, 10 Iurii Kushnarev, 9 Alexey Shcherban, 8 Anton Rudoi, 7 Andrey Temnov, 6 Vitalii Orlov, 5 Viacheslav Krasylnyk, 4 Uldis Saulite, 3 Innokentiy Zykov, 2 Nazir Gasanov, 1 Alexey Volkov
Replacements: 16 Stanislav Selskii, 17 Andrei Polivalov, 18 Evgenii Pronenko, 19 Mikhail Sidorov, 20 Sergey Kuzmenko, 21 Nikolay Serkov, 22 Dmitriy Simonov, 23 Plavel Butenko

Newcastle: 15 Tom Penny, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Belisario Agulla, 10 Tom Catterick, 9 Jamie Booth, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Daniel Temm, 6 Richard Mayhew (c), 5 Will Witty, 4 Calum Green, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Alex Rogers
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Andrew Foster, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Kane Thompson, 21 Ruaridh Dawson, 22 Adam Redman, 23 Daniel Marshall

Date: Saturday, January 16
Venue: Yug Stadium
Kick-off: 14:00 local
Referee: Tual Trainini (France)
Assistant Referees: Vincent Blasco Baqué (France), Jonathan Gasnier (France)

Calvisano v Montpellier

Montpellier have named a very strong side for their trip to Italy to face Calvisano, including starts for both Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis.

Playing their first match since a loss away to Brive on January 3, Benjamin Fall replaces Julien Malzieu on the wing as Robert Ebersohn comes in for Ben Lucas.

Nic White takes over from Benôit Paillaugue at scrum-half while there's a whole new back row in Akapusi Qera, Jacques du Plessis and Antoine Battut.

Thibaut Privat replaces Paul Willemse as the Montpellier front row remains unchanged.

The teams:

Calvisano: 15 Ben De Jager, 14 Giacomo De Santis, 13 Alberto Chiesa, 12 Tommy Castello, 11 Daniele Di Giulio, 10 Florin Vlaicu, 9 Riccardo Raffaele, 8 Jim Tuivaiti, 7 Renato Giammarioli, 6 Matteo Archetti, 5 Davide Zanetti, 4 Agustin Cavalieri, 3 Salvatore Costanzo, 2 Luhandre Luus, 1 Sami Panico
Replacements: 16 Lorenzo Giovanchelli, 17 Luca Scarsini, 18 Elia Violi, 19 Michele Andreotti, 20 Emilio Vezzoli, 21 Pablo Canavosio, 22 Filippo Buscema, 23Marco Susio

Montpellier: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Benjamin Fall, 13 Anthony Tuitavke, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Marvin O'Connor, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic White, 8 Akapusi Qera, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Antoine Battut, 5 Thibaut Privat, 4 Robins Tchale Watchou, 3 Jannie Du Plessis, 2 Bismarck Du Plessis, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Charles Geli, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Yvan Reilhac, 23 Julien Malzieu

Date: Saturday, January 16
Venue: Peroni Stadium
Kick-off: 14:30 local
Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Dudley Phillips (Ireland), Eddie Hogan O’Connell (Ireland)
TMO: John Carvill (Ireland)

Gloucester v La Rochelle

Gloucester, who need to defeat La Rochelle this weekend to clinch Pool 4 in this season's Challenge Cup, will be skippered by Greig Laidlaw.

The Cherry and Whites come into this weekend's action leading Zebre by nine points. With two rounds left to play, the Italian side could catch Gloucester with two bonus point wins, but a Gloucester win would end those hopes.

Laidlaw will lead a side that features six internationals in the starting line-up, but several changes from the side that started at Sandy Park against Exeter Chiefs last Saturday.

Coming into the back line are Mark Atkinson, Billy Burns and David Halaifonua while the only two forwards retained from last weekend are Nicky Thomas and Tom Savage.

Featuring amongst the replacements is New Zealand second row Joe Latta, who could make his first competitive appearance for the club.

La Rochelle can't progress in the competition, but provided Gloucester with stern opposition in the first meeting between the clubs earlier this season.

Head coach Laurie Fisher, talking to the local media this week, insists that nothing is being taken for granted.

He said: "If we win this, we'll win our pool and that'll get us into the last eight. We'd like to be one of the top four seeds, working towards a home quarter-final.

"But we need to get this weekend out of the way first, against what will be a challenging La Rochelle side who will come to Kingsholm with not a lot to gain but nothing to lose. A French side playing with freedom, given the size of their players and their offload game, can be dangerous.

"There's never any complacency in our group. There will be a lot of guys getting an opportunity so I would anticipate that complacency won't play a part at all. It's more about the excitement of playing at Kingsholm in the European Challenge Cup in front of our own supporters and trying to secure a quarter-final spot."

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 David Halaifonua, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Lewis Ludlow, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Nicky Thomas, 2 Darren Dawiduik, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Josh McNulty, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Elliot Stooke, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Stevie McColl, 23 Matt Kvesic

La Rochelle: 15 Benjamin Lapeyre, 14 Elliot Roudil, 13 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 Alexander Northam, 10 Fabien Fortassin, 9 Julien Audy,  8 Afa Amosa, 7 Jason Eaton, 6 Zeno Kieft, 5 Leo Cedaro, 4 Damien Lagrange, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Thomas Synaeghel
Replacements: 16 Maxime Gau, 17 Jordan Seneca, 18 Vincent Pelo, 19 Romain Sazy, 20 Kevin Gourdon, 21 Jules Lebail, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Gabriel Lacroix

Date: Saturday, January 16
Venue: Kingsholm
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Barrie O’Connell (Ireland)

Worcester v Zebre

Worcester wing Andy Short will make his long-awaited second debut for the club when they host Zebre in Saturday's Challenge Cup fixture.

Short, who rejoined his hometown club from Bristol in the summer, played several minutes in September's friendly with Barbarians but was forced off with injury which has kept him sidelined for the last four months.

In the back three, Short is joined by Dean Hammond on the opposite wing, while Ben Howard starts at full-back where he is set for his 50th appearance for the club at just 22 years of age.

Luke Baldwin makes his first Warriors start at scrum-half while Academy graduate Tiff Eden comes in at fly-half. 

Alex Grove will skipper the side from midfield alongside Andy Symons. 

The pack sees a young front-row of Ryan Bower, Ben Sowrey and Gareth Milasinovich while Dan Sanderson and Darren O'Shea start in the second-row. 

Academy starlet Huw Taylor gets the nod at blindside flanker in a back-row with Carl Kirwan and number eight Marco Mama. 

Dan George is named in the replacements and could make his return from injury having been absent since late October, while Matt Cox could make his 50th appearance for the club if he features from the bench.

The teams:

Worcester:15 Ben Howard, 14 Andy Short, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Andy Symons, 11 Dean Hammond, 10 Tiff Eden, 9 Luke Baldwin, 8 Marco Mama, 7 Carl Kirwan, 6 Huw Taylor, 5 Darren O'Shea, 4 Dan Sanderson, 3 Gareth Milasinovich, 2 Ben Sowrey, 1 Ryan Bower
Replacements: 16 Daniel George, 17 Mike Daniels, 18 Nick Schonert, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Ryan Mills, 23 Perry Humphreys

Zebre:15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Dion Berryman, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Kayle Van Zyl, 10 Kelly Haimona, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Dries van Schalkwyk, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Jacopo Sarto, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Valerio Bernabo, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Tommaso D'Apice, 1 Andrea de Marchi
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Jean Cook, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Giiulio Toniolatti, 23 Edoardo Padovani

Date: Saturday, January 16
Venue: Sixways
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Thomas Charabas (France)
Assistant Referees: Sébastien Minery (France), Vivien Praderie (France)

London Irish vs Grenoble

London Irish head coach Tom Coventry has made 11 changes from the side that played Newcastle last weekend.

Jebb Sinclair, Luke Narraway and try scorers Alex Lewington and Topsy Ojo are the only survivors from Sunday’s Premiership victory against Newcastle for this crucial Challenge Cup fixture.

Tom Smallbone, Tom Cruse and Halani Aulika make up the front row with senior Academy member Ollie Curry named alongside Jebb Sinclair in the second row. Tom Guest, Joe Trayfoot and Luke Narraway make up the back row with Narraway captaining the side.

Scott Steele and Shane Geraghty form the half-back pairing with Theo Brophy Clews, who this week announced a contract extension with the Club, named at inside centre with Fergus Mulchrone outside him. Lewington and Ojo are joined in the back three by Tom Fowlie.

Commenting on his selection, Tom Coventry said: “We have made a number of changes to the team for Saturday’s game. There are members of the squad working tirelessly behind the scene who deserve an opportunity and I’m sure they will take it with both hands.

"It is a big game for us as we look to progress in this competition. Grenoble are top of the pool and we know we will have to be at our best to win.”

Meanwhile, Pool 5's pace-setters Grenoble have named a strong side as they look to end the Exiles' hopes of topping the pile.

Included in the starting backline is Gio Aplon, Jonathan Wisniewski, Charl McLeod while Rory Grice, Mahamadou Diaby, Peter Kimlin and Sona Taumalolo form a solid spine to the forward pack for their crucial trip to Reading.

The teams:

London Irish:15 Topsy Ojo, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Theo Brophy Clews, 11 Tom Fowlie, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Scott Steele, 8 Luke Narraway (c), 7 Joe Trayfoot, 6 Tom Guest,  5 Jebb Sinclair, 4 Ollie Curry, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Tom Smallbone
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 Tom Court, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Conor Gilsenan, 20 David Sisi, 21 Darren Allinson, 22 Johnny Williams, 23 Dominic Waldouck

Grenoble: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Lucas Dupont, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Nigel Hunt, 11 Armand Batlle, 10 Jonathan Wisniewski, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Rory Grice, 7 Mahamadou Diaby, 6 Henry Vanderglas, 5 Peter Kimlin, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Dayna Edwards, 2 Arnaud Héguy, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Loick Jammes, 17 Denis Coulson, 18 Walter Desmaison, 19 Mathias Marie, 20 Steven Setephano, 21 Lilian Saseras, 22 Clément Gelin, 23 Daniel Kilioni.

Date: Saturday, January 16
Venue: Madejski Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini (Italy), Simone Boaretto (Italy)

Brive v Connacht

Connacht head coach Pat Lam has made ten changes to his starting line-up that will take on Brive at Stade Amédée-Domenech on Saturday.

USA international fly-half AJ MacGinty has been handed his third start of the season while Ian Porter comes in at scrum-half.

Bundee Aki moves to inside centre to allow Academy centre Rory Parata wear the number 13 shirt.

Danie Poolman returns to start on the right wing while Tiernan O'Halloran and last week's try scorer Matt Healy are retained to complete the back three.

Up front, Ronan Loughney, Jason Harris-Wright and Rodney Ah You start in a new front row while Aly Muldowney partners Ultan Dillane in the second row this week.

Academy flankers Sean O'Brien and James Connolly are named in the back-row while captain John Muldoon shifts to number eight.

Denis Buckley makes a welcome return from injury to take his place on the replacements bench that also sees George Naoupu, Caolin Blade and Peter Robb included this week.

Jack Carty is in line to mark his 50th appearance for Connacht.

The teams:

Brive:15 Romain Sola, 14 Guillaume Namy, 13 Thomas Laranjeira, 12 Christopher Tuatara, 11 Benito Masilevu, 10 Matthieu Ugalde, 9 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Fabien Sanconnie, 6 William Whetton, 5 Arnaud Mela, 4 Victor Lebas, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Thomas Acquier, 1 Goderzi Shvelidze
Replacements: 16 Guillaume Ribes, 17 Damien Lavergne, 18 Yusuf Tuncer, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Poutasi Luafutu, 21 Teddy Iribaren, 22 Nicolas Bézy, 23 Arnaud Mignardi

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Rory Parata, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Matt Healy, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Ian Porter, 8 John Muldoon, 7 James Connolly, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Jason Harris Wright, 1 Ronan Loughney
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 George Naoupu, 20 Eoghan Masterson, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Peter Robb

Date: Saturday, January 16
Venue: Stade Amédée-Domenech
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (England)
Assistant Referees: Dean Richards (England), Paul Burton (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)